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How to attract the best AI gurus

When demand outweighs supply in the field of AI gurus, recruiters need to be strategic, writes Sreedhar Narayanan.

5 min read


AI gurus

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The use of AI has become so pervasive that demand for AI talent now grossly eclipses the supply. So much so that even heralded Big Tech companies are finding it challenging to recruit and retain the top AI gurus in the industry. With this demand showing no signs of abating and organizations increasingly adopting machine learning and large language models into their business structures and offerings, these companies need to know: How can they attract the best AI minds? 

Dedicated AI programs

Simply having an overarching IT department will no longer suffice. Setting up a dedicated AI unit will show potential employees a clear path for advancement and indicate that AI is a company priority with continuous learning and growth opportunities. In addition, working in a specialized ecosystem allows expert talent to engage with best-in-class expertise specific to their AI discipline and industry vertical. 

A dedicated AI program will also have to be accompanied by specialized roles to cater to the multiple sub-disciplines of AI. For example, one employee may be an expert in large language models, while another focuses on analytical AI models and another on natural language processing. Having a dedicated AI program also signals that talent will be highly valued and that their presence will have a significant impact on the company’s business strategy, growth plan and culture.  

Anchor hires

Companies that are serious about their AI programs should start with an anchor hire, preferably with a role akin to chief AI officer or chief technologist. The founder of an AI startup could be an ideal candidate. Having a renowned expert on board will differentiate the company, and potential recruits will be attracted to the opportunity to learn from and work with a leading expert. The presence of a well-respected figure will also immediately elevate the organization’s reach, making it appealing for additional talent to be recruited

An anchor hire can assist in shaping the strategic direction of the company as they often have an extensive professional network. By being integral to the recruitment process and identifying the most suitable candidates, potential recruits with multiple options are more likely to choose the organization — and stay there. 

Strategic partnerships with universities

Many tertiary institutions are now offering various AI disciplines within their technological curriculums, both at undergraduate and postgraduate levels. Organizations that partner with these schools could have a higher chance of attracting the best student candidates before they even enter the job market. These partnerships may also create a steady flow of talent equipped with the most up-to-date knowledge and technologies. In addition, offering student candidates co-op programs and internships allows an organization to foster greatness in future employees, making integration easier upon full-time employment. 

However, strategic partnerships with universities are not a one-way street. Schools can also benefit in a myriad of ways, ranging from guest lectures and workshops by top AI talent from an organization to company leaders serving on advisory boards and assisting with the direction of academic programs to align theory with practical industry needs better.  

Several schools have AI innovation labs set up and look to partner jointly on solving significant business problems.

Employee upskilling

Retaining and cultivating the best AI talent is critical. One way to accomplish this is by upskilling, which can take the form of internal or external training with tuition reimbursement options. AI technology is rapidly evolving, so providing employees with upskilling opportunities helps them stay relevant and competitive within their roles and industries. It also alleviates anxiety about obsolescence and demonstrates an organization’s investment in an employee’s career growth and skill enhancement. 

Reducing employee turnover not only helps the organization save on a multitude of costs related to hiring, such as recruitment, onboarding and training of new hires, it also facilitates continuity and stability within teams and strengthens organizational culture. Eventually, the organization will foster a reputation for investing in employee development, which will assist the company in attracting top AI talent who value learning and development. 

Solving unique problems

Retaining the best AI minds will invariably require a level of intellectual stimulation through complex challenges and solving unique problems. This will require AI experts to continuously think out of the box and utilize their advanced problem-solving skills, which will aid in engagement and motivation. For example, building and testing AI models to solve problems that have significant real-world implications and applications will give AI experts a sense of purpose and fulfillment with the knowledge that they are contributing to projects that will not only push the boundaries of AI but will also benefit the entirety of society. 

Often, solving unique problems requires interdisciplinary collaboration across different fields and departments. This provides AI experts the opportunity to learn from diverse perspectives that they may have yet to work closely with. This has the effect of improving teamwork skills, increasing knowledge sharing and growing mentorship opportunities, which are all vital to retaining top AI talent. 

By focusing on establishing dedicated AI departments, anchor hires, strategic partnerships, upskilling and creating opportunities for complex problem-solving, companies can ensure that they not only attract the best AI minds — but also retain them.